Pocan asks Air Force to clarify future of F-35 jets in Madison

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MADISON, Wis. — Congressman Mark Pocan is asking the U.S. Air Force whether a recent review of the future of the F-35 jet will affect plans to base the planes in Madison.

Pocan’s letter comes shortly after General Charles Q. Brown made statements in Air Force Mag calling into question the longevity and durability of the controversial fighter jet.

Brown said the USAF is launching a months-long study that will give insights into the USAF’s tactical needs. Brown went on to say that some F-35’s engines are wearing down faster than anticipated.

“I want to moderate how much we’re using those aircraft,” Brown said in the article. “You don’t drive your Ferrari to work every day, you only drive it on Sundays. This is our ‘high end’ [fighter], we want to make sure we don’t use it all for the low-end fight … We don’t want to burn up capability now and wish we had it later.”

The Air Force chose Madison’s Truax Field in April 2020 as a host base for the new jets.

“I stand ready to work with the USAF and Wisconsin Air National Guard to identify a different use for Truax Air Base that will improve the Air Force’s readiness and mission without significant interruption to surrounding neighborhoods and communities,” Pocan wrote. “I am also happy to discuss alternative missions for Truax, be it medical training, emergency response functions, or similarly situated activities.”

State Rep. Francesca Hong said her office is “prepared and eager to work further” with Pocan and the Air Force in their efforts to look into alternative missions.

“The issue of F-35s will take a multifaceted approach and a strong commitment to environmental and economic mitigation,” Hong said in a statement. “We must not let up our fight against the harm they will do to our communities and future generations. We thank Congressman Pocan for his continued advocacy for the people of Wisconsin.”

In a follow up story in Air Force Mag, Brown said his original comments were taken out of context and the F-35 is the “cornerstone” of the USAF’s planning. Instead, Brown said, the study will determine whether the USAF should surge its production of the jet.

Read Pocan’s full letter here.